Rachel Mulvaney is the Vice President of Curvy Girls, an international support group for girls with scoliosis. You might remember that we interviewed the group's founder, Leah Stoltz, on the Scoliosis SOS blog last year - this time around, we have a Q&A with Rachel, whose scoliosis story is rather different from Leah's but no less inspirational.

Curvy Girls Scoliosis

So, Rachel - when did you first learn that you had scoliosis?

I was nine years old when my school nurse detected my curves during a scoliosis screening examination. With a 35-degree curve, bracing was immediately recommended - I wore a brace 16 hours a day for nearly 3 years. However, several months after I'd been discharged from bracing, my back pain worsened and we learned that my curve had progressed to 42 degrees.

It was during this time that my mother was doing research for the book that we were writing, Straight Talk with the Curvy Girls. We learned about a scoliosis-specific exercise called the Schroth method, and in 2010, I travelled to a scoliosis clinic in Wisconsin for an intensive two-week programme.

And how well did the treatment work?

I believe it worked very well for me. The back brace did stabilise my curves, but my scoliosis continued to progress as I was never educated on how to hold my body in an upright position without depending on my brace. It was the Schroth method that improved my scoliosis and eliminated my chronic back pain. Those scoliosis-specific exercises taught me how to strengthen my weakened muscles, maintain correction, and most importantly, live a pain-free life.

After eight months of consistently doing the exercises, my 42-degree curve reduced to 30 degrees. This was a surprise to my orthopaedic surgeon, as I was already skeletally matured. And my success did not end there - by the summer of 2013, my curved had reduced to 22 degrees.

How did you get involved with Curvy Girls?

I became involved with Curvy Girls before we even had a formal name! Twelve years ago, my physical therapist introduced me to Leah Stoltz, who told me that she wanted to start a scoliosis support group for people our age. When she asked if I would be interested in attending a meeting, I said yes without any hesitation. Several weeks later, I went to the first meeting at her home on 6th August 2006.

Tell us about the role you play in Curvy Girls today.

Today, I am proud to say that I am the Vice President of Curvy Girls. Since 2012, I have co-led and co-created our International Biennial Curvy Girls Scoliosis Conventions with Leah. I also serve as a mentor for our Curvy Girl Leaders in the New York and New England regions.

I also make myself available to educate and advocate for the Schroth method. Over the years, I have invited medical professionals (as well as newly-diagnosed families) into my home to demonstrate how effective these exercises can be for a scoliotic spine.

And what do you do in your life outside of Curvy Girls?

Outside of Curvy Girls, I work as a Care Coordinator II at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where I facilitate and manage an oncologists' clinic and help run our chemotherapy unit. I am also preparing to go back to college to receive my master's in Public Health. I have a strong interest in research, epidemiology and preventative care.

Has helping other people with their spinal curves helped you to come to terms with your own condition and experiences?

Absolutely - helping other girls was like a form of medicine to me. Educating families about the Schroth method helped me to discover a purpose and drive within me that I never knew existed.

Throughout my bracing years, I was told that my chronic back pain did not exist because scoliosis 'does not cause any pain'. I was one of many patients who were spoken to in this way. But after learning a programme that both validated and eliminated my pain, I was determined to spread the word. I wanted to make sure all Curvy Girl families had the opportunity to know that this treatment existed. How can we make the best decisions for our health if we don't know what all of our options are?

What advice would you give to a young girl who's just been diagnosed with scoliosis?

I would encourage that young girl to join a Curvy Girls chapter so she can see for herself that she is not alone. I would tell her about our conventions and how many girls she will meet from all around the world who are going through the same experiences she is.

And what advice would you give to the people close to them?

For family members, I would advise them to read Straight Talk with the Curvy Girls. This book includes health education, emotional support, and a dedicated section for parents.

For teachers, please show empathy and understanding of the needs she may have. Allow her to step away from her desk if she begins to feel back pain, as sitting for too long in a back brace can lead to discomfort. Excuse her from class if she needs to temporarily leave and take her brace off.

For friends, please be kind and accepting. This is a sensitive time for your friend. Offer to take her shopping to find clothes that will make her feel more confident when she wears her brace to school. You could even suggest helping her name her brace in order to make the brace a part of the friendship you all share.

Visit www.curvygirlsscoliosis.com to learn more about Curvy Girls, or follow @CurvyGirlsScoli on Twitter.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we treat scoliosis using a Schroth-based programme called ScolioGold therapy - learn all about it here.

Schroth Best Practice Method

Developed by Dr Hans-Rudolf Weiss, the grandson of Katharina Schroth, the Schroth Best Practice Method® is a form of non-surgical scoliosis treatment that aims to reduce the patient's Cobb angle. This is achieved via a carefully-chosen set of stretches and other exercises.

Schroth Best Practice therapy is effectively a simplified version of the acclaimed Schroth method, which was developed by Weiss's grandmother. The new method was developed based on more recent research, and it adds a number of easy-to-perform exercises to Katharina Schroth's original programme.

Many clinics, both in the UK and elsewhere, use the Schroth Best Practice Method® to treat scoliosis patients who do not wish to undergo spinal fusion surgery. The Best Practice programme is often used in conjunction with a Gensingen brace (also developed by Dr Weiss) to achieve the best possible results for the patient.

Do Scoliosis SOS use the Schroth Best Practice Method® to treat scoliosis?

If you're familiar with the work we do here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, you probably know that the principles of the Schroth method are a huge influence on our own approach to scoliosis treatment; for a time, we were actually the UK's only provider of Schroth-based scoliosis therapy. We believe that Schroth's exercises can be massively beneficial, and we've seen first-hand how effective they can be when it comes to reducing a patient's Cobb angle.

However, we decided some time ago that we shouldn't restrict ourselves to only treating patients using the Schroth method. Scoliosis is a complex condition that can manifest itself in many different ways, and we feel that the Schroth programme only addresses a portion of the overall problem.

So instead of continuing to treat patients using the Schroth method alone, we developed our very own therapeutic programme with a view to treating every aspect of scoliosis. We call it the ScolioGold method, and in addition to Schroth exercises, it consists of...

...and a wide variety of other proven non-surgical treatment techniques. The entire programme is specifically tailored to the needs of scoliosis sufferers, and if our patient testimonials are anything to go by, it's an extremely effective approach that gets real results.

Do you (or a loved one) suffer from scoliosis? Contact Scoliosis SOS now to book an initial consultation.

Schroth Method Treatment for Scoliosis

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we've been successfully treating scoliosis patients for well over a decade. Our comprehensive ScolioGold treatment programme combines a variety of well-known therapeutic techniques, and the exercises that we teach our patients allow them to manage their symptoms and prevent progression from the comfort of their own home.

One of the techniques we use to treat our patients is the Schroth method, in which our therapists our expertly trained.

 

What is the Schroth method?

The Schroth method is an exercise-based physiotherapy programme that is used to treat scoliosis without surgical intervention. This world-renowned treatment method has helped countless people to improve their posture and overcome the symptoms of scoliosis.

The Schroth method is named after Katharina Schroth, the German physiotherapist who devised it. Schroth herself had a curved spine, and after making great progress with her own condition, she decided to open up a clinic to treat other people with scoliosis.

Katharina Schroth passed away in 1985, but her daughter Christa Lehnert-Schroth continued her work and the Schroth method is now used to treat scoliosis patients all over the world.

 

How does the Schroth method help people with scoliosis?

The Schroth method uses stretches and exercises to develop the inner muscles of the rib cage in order to correct spinal abnormalities in all three planes of the body. This treatment method also places emphasis on the conscious correction of posture during day-to-day life.

Schroth Method Exercises

The Schroth-based exercises that we use here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic are customised to each patient's unique spinal curvature, as well as their age and physical ability. Our use of the Schroth method has allowed 88% of our patients to avoid the need for spinal fusion surgery. We also:

  • Use a specific rotational breathing technique to correct spinal rotation and increase the patient's lung capacity

  • Rebalance the patient's spinal position using pelvic corrections and isometric contractions

  • Make patients more aware of their posture on a daily basis, ensuring they have the correct equipment at home and at school/work to maintain their corrected position

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Examples of Schroth method exercises

Here are just a few of the stretches and exercises that make up the Schroth method:

1. Prone on stool

One of the core Schroth exercises, performed in a prone position facing towards the floor. Depending on the patient's classification, condition, previous medical history and symptoms, this exercise has the potential to correct:

  • A thoracic curve using shoulder traction, shoulder counter-traction and the de-rotation breathing technique
  • A lumbar curve via activation of the iliopsoas muscle

With a different setup, it can also be used to help thoracolumbar curves.

Prone on Stool Exercise

This exercise requires quite a few pieces of equipment including tubes, stools, belts, straps, beanbags and wedges. Watch our patient Isobel perform this exercise during a check-up appointment at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic:

 

2. Semi-hanging

This primary Schroth exercise uses gravity to stretch out the spine and relieve pressure on vertebral joints. At the same time, the patient will be applying the rotational breathing technique to flatten the prominent areas of their back, activating their muscles on exhalation to train their body to remember the corrected position when they stop exercising.

Semi-Hanging Schroth Exercise

This is often used as a preparation exercise at the beginning of a treatment session. A set of wall bars (or equivalent) is necessary to perform this exercise effectively.

Watch our patient Nicole, who travelled from Ghana to the UK for scoliosis treatment, practise this exercise with her therapist:

 

3. Iliopsoas on a ball

This is a very patient-specific Schroth exercise that is only suitable for someone with a lumbar or thoracolumbar curve. It works by utilising the activation of the iliopsoas muscle to help de-rotate the affected portion of the patient's spine. This is one of the simpler Schroth method exercises, requiring only a gym ball and wall bars (or equivalent).

Iliopsoas Ball Exercise

Here at the clinic, patients often receive assistance from the therapists using myofascial release techniques to 'mobilise' the spine and help the patient to achieve a straight posture in standing.

Watch our patient Molly from Suffolk perform this exercise:

The Schroth component of our ScolioGold therapy course places huge emphasis on conscious correction of posture throughout daily life, not just during exercise therapy. Education is paramount - throughout your 4-week course, our therapists will help you to learn about scoliosis and your body to ensure that you can recognise an abnormal posture and correct it accordingly.

More Scoliosis Exercises >

 

What is the Rigo-Schroth method?

The Rigo-Schroth method is a modification of the Schroth method. Devised in the 1980s by a Spanish practitioner named Dr Manuel Rigo, it is based on much the same regime of stretches as the Schroth method itself; however, the Rigo-Schroth method is structured differently, with significantly more emphasis on the role of the therapist.

 

Combining Schroth method exercises with other treatment techniques

Back when we first opened our clinic, our treatment courses were entirely based on the Schroth method, but over the years, we noticed that some aspects of scoliosis were not addressed through use of the Schroth method alone. So, to ensure that all aspects of each patient's condition are fully treated, we've combined the Schroth and Rigo-Schroth methods with a number of other exercise-based / non-surgical treatment to help provide our patients with a fully comprehensive treatment package.

Our Treatment Methods >

This approach has yielded superb results: our treatment courses have proved capable of preventing progression, improving posture and cosmetic appearance, reducing pain, improving quality of life, and reducing the patient's Cobb angle by up to 20 degrees.

To enrol on one of our Schroth-based scoliosis treatment courses, contact us online or give us a call on 0207 488 4428.

 

Further reading

Schroth Method Australia
 

The Schroth method is a non-surgical approach to scoliosis treatment that, through an intensive programme of stretches and exercises, alleviates symptoms such as back pain, muscle weakness, and reduced flexibility.

 
When properly administered by a skilled practitioner, Schroth treatment can eliminate the need for spinal fusion surgery (an operation that is often used to halt the progression of spinal curves, but which - like any surgical procedure - carries with it a number of risks). As a result, the Schroth method is a very popular, highly sought-after treatment route amongst scoliosis sufferers who would prefer not to go under the knife.
 
The problem is that qualified Schroth practitioners are in fairly short supply. Depending on where in the world you live, it may be very difficult or even impossible to get Schroth treatment in your own country. For this reason, many scoliosis sufferers have travelled great distances in order to visit a Schroth clinic, get treated, and bring their condition under control without having to undergo surgery.

Schroth treatment in Australia

Australia is one country where Schroth method practitioners are few and far between. Because of this, many Australians with curved spines have made the long journey to England in order to complete an intensive ScolioGold treatment course here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London.
 
Monay, a teenager from Queenland, was one such Australian. She was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 14 after suffering from back pain for a long time; post-diagnosis, she tried countless different treatment methods, including osteopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and the EMMETT technique. However, Monay was unsatisfied with the outcome of these assorted treatments, and so she decided to come to London and try ScolioGold therapy instead.
 
Watch the video below to find out what Monay thought of our treatment programme.
 
"I feel a lot more independent...I don't have to rely on treatment every week, I can just do it myself."

Are ScolioGold therapy and the Schroth method identical?

ScolioGold - the Scoliosis SOS Clinic's own treatment regime - is actually a combination of numerous non-surgical techniques. The Schroth method has always been at the heart of our programme, but ScolioGold therapy also incorporates a range of other proven methods, such as:
  • Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
  • Kinesio taping
  • Functional Independent Treatment for Scoliosis (FITS)
  • Scientific Exercise Approach to Scoliosis (SEAS)
  • Myofascial release
  • Trigger point therapy
If you live in Australia (or elsewhere in the world) and you're looking for Schroth-based scoliosis treatment in an English-speaking country, we at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic would be more than happy to welcome you. We even offer on-site accommodation right in the centre of London - all of the famous tourist hotspots are right on our doorstep, and like Monay, you'll have plenty of time to check them all out if you're so inclined.
 
Schroth Method vs. ScolioGold
 
Originally, the Schroth method was the primary form of physical therapy used to treat scoliosis here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic. However, we soon realised that there were several disadvantages to relying on this method alone. While Schroth remains a core element of the treatment we provide, we have since combined it with a variety of other well-established, scientifically proven spinal techniques to create the ScolioGold method, a far more comprehensive treatment programme that addresses all aspects of the patient's condition. 
 
In order to explain the differences between these two approaches more clearly (particularly for those who are researching the benefits and limitations of non-surgical therapy), we have put together a useful guide which compares the Schroth method to our own ScolioGold therapy:

What is the Schroth method?

Schroth Exercises
 
Developed by Katharina Schroth in 1921, the Schroth method is a conservative exercise therapy that takes a three-dimensional approach towards elongating the trunk and correcting imbalances of the spine. This therapy aims to develop the inner muscles of the rib cage in order to change the shape of the upper trunk and correct any spinal abnormalities in all three planes of the body: sagittal, frontal, and transverse. This means that correction needs to occur not only from side to side and front to back, but also longitudinally. The Schroth method also places emphasis on the conscious correction of posture during daily living, as well as during strenuous exercise periods.
 
Schroth’s technique involves an intensive course of inpatient physiotherapy, lasting 6-8 hours per day for 4-6 weeks. Following the inpatient treatment, it is recommended that the patient maintains an at-home follow-up routine consisting of 3-4 exercises for 30 minutes each day; this helps to maintain the improved postural balance gained during therapy.
 
A Schroth treatment programme includes the correction of the scoliotic posture and breathing pattern with the assistance of proprioceptive and exteroceptive stimulation and mirror control. Using sensorimotor feedback mechanisms, the patients learn an individual correction routine and corrected breathing pattern, providing them with the tools to maintain the results of their therapy. There is no formal follow-up or aftercare, which means that the treatment relies solely upon the patient once their course is completed. 

The ScolioGold Method

ScolioGold
 
The ScolioGold Method was developed by the Scoliosis SOS team in 2006, replacing the Schroth method as the primary form of treatment delivered here at our clinic. The principal components of ScolioGold therapy include:
  • Katharina Schroth & Rigo-Schroth methods
  • Functional Independent Treatment for Scoliosis (FITS method)
  • Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF method)
  • Scientific Exercise Approach to Scoliosis (SEAS method)
  • Orthopaedic Medicine
Our treatment courses also incorporate several common manual physiotherapy techniques, such as:
  • Myofascial release
  • Osteopathy
  • Trigger point  therapy
Treatment is further facilitated and accompanied by other techniques such as acupuncture and dry needling.
 
ScolioGold therapy is tailored to suit the specific concerns and demands of our patients, and involves ergonomic assessments, pedoscans, and insole fitting to optimise posture and back health. The ScolioGold programme is also continually monitored and developed according to the latest scoliosis research, ensuring that we always provide the best possible care for patients. Treatment can be carried out in an intensive group setting of 1, 2 or 4-week courses; alternatively, many patients elect to receive treatment through individual 1:1 outpatient-style appointments of between 1 and 3 hours per visit. There is no limit to the number of therapy sessions you can attend, and a long-term treatment plan is provided in order to continually care for our patients.
 
The aim of the ScolioGold Method is to enable patients to maintain a more central posture during everyday activities, and is based upon 5 core principles:
 
  1. Body and Postural Awareness – Improving the patient's understanding of their condition, anatomy and physiology, as well as representing their specific classification using the system of blocks.

  2. Axial Elongation – Stretching of the spine to open up areas of collapse and to better align the trunk whilst activating the muscles to address muscular imbalance.

  3. De-Rotation – Corrections of asymmetries in the transverse plane, using passive corrections (beanbags and wedges) to de-rotate the thorax assisted by rotational breathing.

  4. De-Flexion – Corrections in the frontal plane addressing coronal imbalance, pelvic torsion, rotation and shoulder positioning.

  5. Isometric Contraction – Prolonged muscle contraction to re-enforce corrections.
 
To find out more about ScolioGold therapy, please click here. You can also get in touch with Scoliosis SOS by calling 0207 488 4428 or by filling out our contact form.